Showcasing British lamb’s versatility could boost exports to the US

Friday, 10 March 2023

Despite being one of the less popular meats in America, the US has the potential to be a key export market for British lamb if we can showcase its versatility and flavour.

According to Dunbia’s Commercial Manager Tom Coles, the biggest opportunity lies in the size of the population – with over 300 million people, the majority of whom are meat eaters.

But Mr Coles recognises that growing lamb exports is going to be challenging due to its high price and competition from already established importers.

“With lamb being expensive compared to other proteins, and other countries such as Australia and New Zealand already established in this market, the biggest challenge I see is reaching those discerning customers in the premium food service sector in the hope that the popularity of lamb will continue to grow,” he said.

“But the UK has one of the most sustainable production systems in the world, using our natural resources such as grass, sunshine and plenty of rain to produce highly nutritious, succulent and tasty lamb. It is through showcasing these key qualities that opportunities will start to open.”

Mr Cole’s comments were made at the Annual Meat Conference in Dallas this week, where he joined AHDB and Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) in a packed exhibition hall to showcase British lamb to more than 1,500 visitors, mostly Americans.

AHDB was also joined by James Hutcheson, Commercial Director for ABP, who has been pleased with the willingness of US importers to engage with UK processors.

He said: “We’re just about to conclude our USDA approval as a business and the next step will be putting a commercial aspect to that work and exporting to the US. This mission gave us a good focal point to achieve this.

“One of the most welcome surprises has been the general willingness to engage from the US importers. There is an active interest in British meat and the most pleasant surprise has been the level of engagement they have afforded us as a newcomer to the market.”

But Mr Hutchinson also recognises the challenges of exporting to the US.

“It’s a mature market for some of our southern hemisphere competitors, so there’s a willingness and understanding of buying an Australian or New Zealand cut of lamb because its traditional to the market and we haven’t had access to it previously.

“But the US has a low level of domestic production and consumers who are looking for a taste and flavour experience that is beyond the everyday meal occasion.

“We have seen there is a good acceptance of lamb, they like the flavour profile, particularly of UK lamb, and we see that as an opportunity. Yes, there’s others in the marketplace and that could be perceived as a threat but there is an understanding that all meal occasions are open to us and there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.”

AHDB’s International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said: “This is the first time we’ve attended the Annual Meat Conference and we are delighted by the reception we’ve received and the number of new potential contacts we’ve introduced to our UK exporters.

“The US is an important and growing market, and AHDB is committed to continuing these events and missions to the States to build on our red meat shipments over the coming years.”

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